Posts tagged: Grassroots

SKW Live – Be A Star… Why I Love My Grassroots!

By , April 28, 2013 2:54 am

Source: Aussie Pete

Well I can certainly tell you, dear reader – life is about as busy as it gets right now!!

 

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Don’t misunderstand me – I am not complaining, just perhaps making excuses why I’m so far behind with my blogging. When you mix a very busy day job and career with outside activities such as press appearances and media interviews, along with the wonderful time I spend coordinating the family around their various hobbies and interests and of course, my commitments to GRL (Grassroots Leader) community activities, I reckon it’s very lucky that I can survive with only a handful of hours sleep every night. 🙂

Coming off back-to-back weekends where I spent some time with the Singapore Prime Minister, Mr Lee Hsien Loong – firstly at the AMK Task Force Work Plan Seminar held at ITE College Central Campus and last Saturday on my home turf in Fernvale (story time with the kids) – I was fortunate enough to be reminded once again of why it is that I love my involvement in Grassroots.

Story time with PM Lee Hsieng and MP Dr Lam Pin Min and the boys at Fernvale

Story time with PM Lee Hsieng and MP Dr Lam Pin Min and the boys at Fernvale

You see, last Saturday evening I was invited to take on a new persona – the choice would be mine… the ‘evil’ Simon Cowell or the more pleasant Randy Jackson. I think I opted more for the latter, as I participated as a guest judge in the grand final of the ‘Sengkang West Live – Be A Star’ competition.

The serious (and not so serious) judging panel

The serious (and not so serious) judging panel

The serious (and not so serious) judging panel

The serious (and not so serious) judging panel

The competition, which has been months in the making, culminated with this huge event held at the Anchorvale Community Club MPH. Organized by the Sengang West YEC (youth executive committee), eleven finalists took the stage one final time in an attempt to be crowned the ‘SKW Live Star’.

Prior to the event, I really didn’t know what to expect – but I really must say now that the level of young talent in our local community is astounding! Every single performer put on a real show, and in a way, I wish that each of them could have been awarded first place.

Having said that, a young lady by the name of Cheryl came on stage and clearly blew everyone in the audience away (including myself) with that difficult to describe thing called the ‘X-factor’. Judging was based on certain criteria – tone, pitch, overall talent, stage presence, presentation, interpretation (I’m elaborating a little on the what was on the scoresheet, but you get what I mean).

The Winner

The Winner

 

This winner had it all – in my comments and feedback, for one of those very rare moments I was lost for words. The remarks I did make began with a ‘Wow’! Quite literally, the ballad component of her act left me shivering with goosebumps, followed by a desire to stand on my chair and dance as she leapt into a very upbeat performance which even included a rap… Like I said, ‘Wow’!

The audience was extremely appreciative with people dancing, whistling, screaming, clapping – during the performance.

The Winner

The Winner

I am so glad and honoured to have been asked (along with Peter Leow and three other professional judges) to represent Sengkang West Grassroots organizations as a guest judge, and even happier to have witnessed all of this young talent.

In true Singapore style, there was a broad mix of cultures on display – along with the English perorming acts, we were treated to a very diverse range – from ballads sung in mandarin to what I could only describe as a ‘Bollywood style’ song in Tamil… once again, inspiring the urge to get up and dance.

I was given an appreciation award for this privelege (completely unnecessary but very grateful)

I was given an appreciation award for this privelege (completely unnecessary but very grateful)

 

Let me tell you – Life is good here on the red dot!!

Congratulations for a job well done to the YEC organizing committee

Congratulations for a job well done to the YEC organizing committee

All the judges and performers together

All the judges and performers together

Finally, some of the young crowd 'going off'

Finally, some of the young crowd 'going off'

[VIEW MORE PHOTOS OF THE ‘SENGKANG WEST LIVE – BE A STAR’ COMPETITION] 
(All images courtesy of Raymond Lee)

HDB or Private? You Can Make Up Your Own Mind Already!

By , June 26, 2012 1:54 am

Courtesy of Aussie Pete

The following is an article that I wrote for the iProperty website and was published just last week… (all images have appeared before on my blog and were republished to serve the purpose of the article)

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Why I Chose HDB Over Private Property

When deciding on a property—one that you and your family will call ‘home’—there are some important factors besides finance that you should keep in mind.

As a foreign-born HDB dweller, my housing decisions have been often inquired upon. With this article, I hope to shed light on why I chose a HDB flat over private property, and why Sengkang West of all the housing estates. I will also offer some friendly guidance to those also looking to make Singapore their home.

Celebrations at Sengkang West. All images courtesy of Peter Breitkreutz

Celebrations at Sengkang West. All images courtesy of Peter Breitkreutz

Resale HDB: Are you qualified?


This should be the first checkpoint for non-Singaporeans deciding between HDBs and private properties. For those considering resale HDBs in particular, there are quite a few eligibility conditions and legalities you should take note of beforehand. For instance, resale HDB buyers have to be Singapore Citizens or Permanent Residents, or have at least one such listed occupant. In terms of regulations, there is one rule widely covered in recent news: you must sell off any private property you already own within six months of purchasing a resale flat. More information can be easily found on the HDB InfoWEB.

Unless you meet the stated criteria, your best bet is private property. In case anyone was wondering, PRs are not eligible to purchase new HDBs.

Condominiums: Are you sure?


Why not a condo, you ask? Very good question!

When we first moved to Singapore sans PR status, we did not want to do the stereotypical expat thing and move into predominantly foreign communities. After spending some time searching for the right location, we thought we couldn’t get any more ‘heartlander’ than moving to Woodlands, the northern-most part of the island.

However, we failed to realise that moving into a rental condominium still meant that we ended up surrounding ourselves with a non-local community. Additionally, security guards and boom gates ensured that we were practically locking ourselves out of the community, and the community out of our lives.

Sure, the facilities (pool, gymnasium, function rooms) and privacy that come with condominiums are attractive. But the security measures, in particular, did little to make us feel safer in a country that already boasts one of the lowest crime rates in the world. Neither was it helpful in integrating us into the community we so desperately wanted to belong to. It felt almost like we were on an extended business trip at a resort; definitely not like a place I’d call home.

After a few years there we decided to explore our options, this time deciding not to rent. The dramatically fluctuating rental market then affirmed our decision, but it was not our main motivation. It dawned on us that to really integrate and root ourselves, boots and all, in Singapore for the long term, we needed to stop living the ‘pretend heartlands’ lifestyle. Even now, we still hold the belief that rent money is dead money when it comes to planning for our future in Singapore.

This decision then led us to the resale HDB option.

We soon realised that many five-room HDB flats (or ‘three-bedroom’ in foreigner speak) were larger than modern condominiums, and the newer HDB buildings and estates were styled similar to condominiums. New HDBs were taller, with fewer flats per floor, an elevator at every level and actual hallways within the flats!

Our current apartment has 22 floors with only four ‘point blocks’ on every level. It has a layout and style similar to our former private home, but with more area and a lovely view. Of course, the difference was the lack of private pool and security.

Sengkang West HDB flat

Sengkang West HDB flat

HDBs: a golden opportunity for integration


If not for living in an HDB estate, we never would have gotten the chance to serve the community.Joining a local grassroots organization not only satiated my passion for charity work, but also afforded us a key opportunity to know and befriend those in our community. Another step towards integration in our new country!

I am now a grassroots leader and member of the Anchorvale Community Club Management Committee, with a community network that now stretches across Sengkang West. We are proud to be part of a strongly bonded community, where it is very rare to visit neighbourhood shops and eating places without running into people we know. We now treat our neighbours like family, and vice versa!

I think such a deep integration at the grassroots level is not impossible should we have opted for yet another private property, but I am sure it would have been much more difficult.

A family carnival at the HDB heartlands makes a good opportunity to get to know neighbours

A family carnival at the HDB heartlands makes a good opportunity to get to know neighbours

Sengkang West: Who are the people in your neighbourhood?

As a young family with two ickle boys, we fit in quite well in Sengkang West, which was then (and is still considered) a relatively new and developing part of Singapore. We have seen so many new buildings sprouting up over the years, and practically grew up with this estate.

Furthermore, as we are still considered a foreign family, joining a blossoming community instead of a mature estate was in hindsight also made it a little easier for us to cultivate a sense of belonging.

Family time at the park

Family time at the park

HDB for the long haul


When it comes to deciding between HDBs and private apartments, it’s all about your personal motivations and your desired lifestyle in Singapore.

For us, we wanted our locally born children to be completely immersed in the culture of their birth country. Our elder boy now attends a kindergarten near our home, swimming classes at the public sports complex, and art classes at the local Zone E RC office. His best friends are Singaporeans too. By living in the HDB heartlands, we plan to eventually enroll him and his brother in a local school.

We would not dream of giving up our HDB lifestyle in a million years.

Meeting Senior Minister Lee Hsien Loong

Meeting Senior Minister Lee Hsien Loong

So if you’re looking to truly make Singapore your home, I think the answer is a no-brainer: move out of the expat comfort zones and into the HDB heartlands. It’s a decision that has fulfilled my life; I am certain yours will be too.

Why I Love Charity Work – Warm, Kind, Large Hearts Of Singapore!

By , May 21, 2012 1:30 am

Friday, 18th May, 2012, saw the culmination of months of work, planning and tireless efforts from a small group of local volunteers in Sengkang West. The organizing committee for the inaugural Sengkang West CCC CDWF Charity Golf Day, with the assistance of a huge number of kind hearted donors coordinated the fund raising event and the after-dinner and raised in excess of S$200,000!!

Source: Aussie Pete Blog

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The Sengkang West CCC CDWF (Community Development and Welfare Fund) among many other things, provides school bursaries and scholarships for needy students residing in Sengkang West; financial aid and assistance to Sengkang West residents who are financially under-priveleged, or have no income due to incapacitation of wage earners, unemployed single mothers having to support children; provides financial assistance to elderly unemployed senior citizens / handicapped / wheelchair bound residents (and to organize dinners and gatherings for them during the major festive seasons).

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An event such as this Charity Golf Day is by no means an easy feat to undertake. I am just so very proud of my organizing committee. Never have I been associated with a team where all members have nothing but the real goal in mind – helping those in need!!

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The entire day on Friday was a resounding success, with all golfers having a wonderful time. The dinner in the evening was also a blast, with an atmosphere that was akin to a festive event. Everyone in attendance seemed to have a permanent smile etched on their face. The company was brilliant, the food was superb and May (the emcee) and Shimona Kee (our entertainer for the evening) pulled it off like the true professionals that they are.

In all, the success of the fund raising venture just goes to show me how warm, kind and large-hearted Singaporeans are. At the end of the day, we just all wanted to lend a hand – and quite often such selfless efforts of volunteers and the deep pockets of donors go unnoticed and fly under the radar. This is why I want to take this opportunity to thank you all.

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The feeling of self-fulfillment I get from being a part of charity events such as the Sengkang West CCC CDWF is something that will always be with me.

There are just far too many people involved in Friday’s success to list them all here, so please view the gallery of photos from the dinner to see who they are (all photo credits to Raymond Lee):

Click here for Pictures

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Finally, a huge shout-out and thanks to the major sponsors:

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How Foreigners Can Truly Integrate In Singapore Instead Of Just Mixing

By , December 14, 2011 1:49 am

Source: Aussie Pete

Regardless of which country you come from or where you live, one of the most satisfying ways of achieving self-fulfillment and personal growth and at the same time forging very tight and often unbreakable bonds with your neighbours and fellow local residents is through community volunteer work.

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In my case, as a foreigner settling into Singapore, it has also been a means to achieving a very deep level of integration in my heartland community. Not only have my local relationships developed from ones of ‘familiarity’ into those of ‘strong friendships’, as a Caucasian married to a beautiful Chinese wife with two absolutely adorable Eurasian children, I feel that although we may be considered a ‘minority’ (racially) in our local estate, we feel completely accepted by those around us. There is never any animosity and I have learned that the colour of my skin or country of heritage is of absolutely no consequence in my day to day interactions.

Sure, when we first moved to Singapore all those years ago, living in a condo in Woodlands, we were both scared and intimidated… we were not sure at all how we should go about integrating, earning and giving respect and gaining acceptance. For the first couple of years, we were certainly not doing a great job of it at all. In fact, we even took people staring as a sign of dislike toward us – when in reality, what we considered may be a ‘coolness’ from local Singaporeans at the time, was probably more due to inquisitiveness and curiosity.

Let me tell you for a fact… open your heart and lives with no pretense and you will surely find (as we have) that Singapore is one of the most warm and kindest societies on this planet.

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palogoAs a part of my collaboration with notatourist.sg, I wanted to reach out to fellow foreigners looking for ways to integrate and become accepted as part of their local community, by offering some brief guidance and key links on how they can offer their services through Grassroots volunteer work. (Please note, the following information is far from exhaustive, and I strongly encourage you to have a surf around the People’s Association website – link attached at the bottom of this article).

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As my role as a Grassroots Leader in Sengkang West, the past year has seen a very exciting range of activities and the number of new personal and family friendships are too many to count…. from working with Residents’ Committees on block parties, divisional activities and events (I even had the opportunity to meet Prime Minister Lee at our Sengkang West Wellness Day) to the huge Halloween party we held at the CC in late October, for which I was co-chairman of the organizing committee. It’s been a huge year!!

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Specifically, although my main role is as a member of the Anchorvale CCMC (Community Club Management Committee), I often also work closely with my local Residents’ Committee on things even ‘closer to home’… in fact, I even patrol our estate with the local constabulary as part of the COP (citizens on patrol) – in collaboration with the police force, it is known as the ‘Neighbourhood Watch Zone’ program.

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For more information on what the CCMC does, click here. In summary, Community Club Management Committees (CCMCs) “help build, manage and maintain all our Community Clubs (CCs). CCs are the common meeting ground for residents from all walks of life by providing numerous recreational activities and learning opportunities. CCs also connect residents and the Government by providing relevant information and gathering feedback on national concerns and policies. Each CC serves about 15,000 households or an average of 50,000 people”.

Within our CCMC, are five executive committees – Senior Citizens’ EC, Women’s EC, Youth EC, Malay Activity EC, Indian Activity EC. Through this network, we “promote racial harmony and social cohesion through the various cultural, educational, recreational, sporting, social and other community-based activities organised specially for residents.”

The full list of organizations and committees available for volunteering can be found on the PA website, under the Grassroots Organization section.

To sign-up as a volunteer, simply go here and register your details and interests.

One of the most common questions I get asked on signing up as a volunteer, is “But I don’t live in a HDB estate, how can I get involved?”… Well fret not, dear friends – residents of private housing estates can still play their part by joining a Neighbourhood Committee.

Still in doubt or need extra advice, please feel free to reach out to me directly via email or comment.

I found the following ‘structure’ chart sometime ago on another blog which illustrates nicely, the various committees and how we come together:

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People’s Association Main Website – Click Here

Community Bonding in the Heartlands

By , November 2, 2011 10:27 pm

Just a very quick article to applaud the hard work of a group of very focussed and talented young Singapore Polytechnic students. Also to thank all the rest of the volunteers – grassroots people (CCMC, RC and Sub-Committees) and all of the other student helpers.

The atmosphere was electric

The atmosphere was electric

The ‘2011 Halloween Spooktacular’ at the Anchorvale Community Club at Sengkang West took place on Saturday night (29th October) and featured the first ever ‘Heartlands Halloween Haunted House’.

To say the event was a resounding success would actually be an understatement! Just a few short weeks ago, we were getting worried that we had only sold just over 300 tickets for the night. Fast forward to Saturday afternoon and we had to put a freeze on ticket sales (around 1,070 sold) or we would have risked not having enough goodie bags.

An early arrival in costume

An early arrival in costume

The event was due to start at 7:30pm, but by 6:30pm – while it was still daylight – the first of the residents began showing up. This enthusiasm and excitement continued into the evening. With other walk-ins, the number of attendees was well in excess of what we ever could have imagined. By 8:00pm, the plaza area was completely full of people and the queue to get into the haunted house at the multi-purpose hall was already stretching as far as the eye could see.

Jack-O-Lantern Decoration competition

Jack-O-Lantern Decoration competition

If attendance alone was not enough, the atmosphere was just electric. I’m guessing almost half of the residents came in costume, some of which must have taken hours (if not days) to prepare… and everywhere you looked, there were people bonding, laughing and having a general ‘blast’ of a time.

Winner of the best dressed competition

Winner of the best dressed competition

The demographic of the crowd was also very interesting – everyone from the young families – parents and children, senior citizens and of course, the young adults… teenagers and early 20’s. It really was a complete cross-section of our close-knit community in Sengkang West… In my Grassroots leadership role, I couldn’t help feeling quite proud and excited as one of the key organizers of perhaps the most successful and fun event ever in our constituency!

Absolutely – this was Community bonding at it’s best!

Congratulations to everyone involved…

Click here to see hundreds of pictures from the event

The picture below, is my family with the Guest of Honour, Dr Lam Pin Min (yes, I’m the one in the mask – quite an improvement to my everyday look, right?):

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A Sea of People

A Sea of People

Putting on a brave face in front of a very frightening Snow White in the Haunted House

Putting on a brave face in front of a very frightening Snow White in the Haunted House

Source: Aussie Pete

A Beautiful Sunny Day In Sengkang West – Happy Birthday!

By , May 15, 2011 2:32 am

On 8th May, 2011 (day after the general election), Sengkang West celebrated its 5th anniversary with our Community Day. Nearly 3,000 residents braved the hottest weekend of the year, to attend the celebrations.


As usual, with any community event, and especially one of this magnitude, so many volunteers came out early to prepare for the day. Given the late evening before (it was around 4am before any of us got any sleep after the excitement of the general election vote counting), it was a mighty effort from all concerned, and given the timing, was not without logistical challenges in the days leading up to the event…

From Mickey (who is pictured here below with his kick-start of a double-shot of coffee, and who also happens to be my co-chairperson for what could just well be the hugest community event for 2011, which will be happening this October – big secret right now, but keep your eye out for the announcement as the date gets closer), the PCF, RC and CCMC members and groups, to our guest-of-honour, Dr Lam Pin Min, who (after about 9 days of campaigning), I suspect had very little sleep at all after being re-elected as the Sengkang West MP for the next 5-years. It was fantastic to see so many people cheering and congratulating him on the result – in my humble opinion, I think the citizens made a very good decision at the polling stations… if the reaction of the residents at the community day is anything to go on, Dr Lam is very popular indeed.


 

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WTH MOMENT!!

Before the event… preparations underway – it was a bit of a Mr Bean beginning for me – sweating and somewhat muscle-sore after spending a lot of time arranging around 400 chairs into position, while taking some pictures of the PCF teachers, the strong wind blew a large whiteboard into the air, only to land corner-first on the top of my head. The loud ‘bang’ was enough to draw the sympathy of everybody around, and many people came to my aid. Of course, wanting to always appear to be the tough man, although I was very embarrassed, I pretended it didn’t hurt at all… when no one was watching, I slinked off to the toilet to clean the gash on the top of my head and wash the blood from my hair – I still have a lump on my head today 🙁



As usual, I cannot post pictures of any of our community events without the mandatory ones of my kids looking cute:

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I had to include an image of the ‘Mountain’ of goodie bags that were prepared for the residents… the artwork for the bag design was created by ‘yours truly’… after much discussion and voting on a variety of designs, images and fonts that I offered up, we (the organizing committee) finally agreed on this one:



A beautiful sunny day in Sengkang West – looking back at our estate from Fernvale Point… not a cloud in the sky!!


Below are some more pictures from the day. I snapped around 600+, and it’s always difficult to pick the right few for my blog, so be sure to view the galleries by clicking the following links:

Sengkang West Community Day – Gallery 1
Sengkang West Community Day – Gallery 2
Sengkang West Community Day – Gallery 3

















 

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Source: Aussie Pete Legacy Blog

Opposition Parties to Struggle – Grassroots Breakfast and Family Carnival in Sengkang West

By , March 20, 2011 5:43 pm

Let me get one thing straight – I have very little knowledge about the upcoming election, except for what I read in the papers, see on TV and find in the social media.

From: Aussie Pete

Having said that, I do have quite a lot of time and respect for our local MP in Sengkang West, Dr Lam Pin Min. I have met Dr Lam on a few occassions now, the most recent being at Fernvale Point this morning. Off to an early start for a Sunday, I met up with a number of my fellow Grassroots members (CCMC and RC) and neighbours from the local community at the Koufu food court.

The atmosphere was quite abuzz, with the arrival of Dr Lam not long after we started sipping on our Kopi. As usual, he was immaculately groomed and the admiration and even friendship displayed to him by all of the community members present, was immediately apparent, as he moved from table to table to engage in conversation with everybody in attendance… my most amazing observation, was how he recognises and knows so many people personally. So much so, that I was somewhat embarrassed later after the gathering – Dr Lam remembered in which block I live, and questioned me as to why I drove the short distance of only a couple of blocks… I told him it was because I was feeling lazy – although half true, the actual main reason was that 8:00am on a Sunday is very early for me. If I didn’t drive, I would’ve arrived even later than I already did.

During the breakfast, I was treated to my first real exposure to politics in Singapore. I turned to see a huge procession of ‘baby blue’ T-Shirts. I was told by one of my mates, that this was one of the opposition parties… talk about ‘full force’! They moved along like a parade of dignatories or royalty – single file, shaking hands with everyone in their path, and distributing brochures all the way.

When they arrived at our table, the apparent ‘leader’ of the group shook my hand and asked “Where are you from?”… not sure of the actual intention of the question, I responded “Singapore” (after all, I was only 2 blocks from my home)… this brought about laughter among his ranks, and led to his next question (which seemed somewhat ‘loaded’) – “Oh, are you a citizen?”… now I understood the intent – maybe his original question could have been better worded as, “Will you be eligible to vote in the election?”… needless to say, I was not given a party brochure. 🙂

With my hand ready to cramp up from the multitude of handshakes that ensued, as the rest of the blue shirts passed me by, I was not all that surprised to see the gathering of media already buzzing around… I saw at least Channel News Asia crew and became aware of the Straits Times journalist when he approached me immediately after the blue shirts and also asked if I was PR or Citizen.

Anyway – what started as a very simple breakfast with local friends, ended up as somewhat of a political event… the reason I suggest in the topic of this article that it was (or is) a challenge for the opposition, is that regardless of what one might read or see in the news, after talking with so many of my neighbours and friends and those in attendance, the support for Dr Lam Pin Min seems somewhat overwhelming. He has undoubtedly done so much good for this community already, and I’m sure he will continue to do so in the future… I suspect that the opposition really does have their work cut out for them in this SMC.


Shortly after leaving Fernvale Point, I went home and collected the family, donned my Sengkang West Zone E, RC T-Shirt, and we trekked back across to Block 412 for what was a very successful block party (Family Carnival).
A huge congratulations to the RC organizers and volunteers – the kids were running around with permanent smiles on their faces… and I understand that tickets to this event were sold out completely well in advance. It was also winderful to see residents digging into their pockets to help out in the ‘Japan Disaster Appeal’!

Below are a few pictures from the event – and by clicking here you can see even more!!













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